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Cabinet recommends 5% Council Tax rise

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AT ITS meeting on Monday this week, the Council’s Cabinet decided to recommend a Council Tax rise of 5% for the next financial year.

If the Full Council meeting agrees with its suggestion at its meeting on February 27, the rise will add £1.04per week to the average Band D household Council Tax bill.

Band D is the marker used by Councils across Wales to represent the average home.

Opening budget discussion, Cabinet Member for Finance Cllr Bob Kilmister, praised the level of scrutiny by Council committees and public engagement. The Facebook Live webcasts were particularly successful, the second reaching a record audience for such an exercise. Cllr Kilmister reported one engagement event at Llanteg produced high-quality questions, which demonstrated how the public had engaged with the process and the issues behind the Council’s budget. Cllr Kilmister also expressed satisfaction about engagement with the trades unions, whose written budget submissions are included in the consultation report for the first time.

Discussing the proposed Council Tax rise, Cllr Kilmister said where scrutiny committees expressed a preference, it was for a 5% rise. That figure also received the most support from the public who engaged in the consultation process. The unions wanted a 10% rise to preserve frontline services and avoid staff cuts.

He outlined amendments to aspects of the budgets had been made following committee scrutiny. However, he also reported a potential £1m item of additional expenditure due to the closure of Asian markets to recycling from overseas. The pressure, Cllr Kilmister reported, was UK-wide and resulted from a global reduction in recycling capacity.

Bob Kilmister said he accepted one particular request for amendment, which came from the Council’s Policy Overview Committee and related to funding climate change initiatives, but difficulties existed about the funding commitment without specific projects to which it could be allocated.

Accordingly, the Cabinet approved an amendment to the budget statement resolving to provide sufficient funding necessary to enable progress to be made and will make full use of any external funding opportunities. Sufficient resourcing will include the consideration of suitable Capital Bids and feasibility funding in line with the Capital Programme managed by the Capital Board and if necessary, revenue resource in the coming financial year, if it is necessary to support the work of becoming a Net Zero Carbon County by 2030.

Bob Kilmister underlined the Council’s commitment and his commitment but said a considered approach was needed. He was adamant he would not agree to the diversion of resources from core services, such as education and adult social care. He said projects needed a clear business plan and had to show how benefits would accrue from capital investment and revenue use. Cllr Kilmister said he suspected extra money would come forward once the UK Government set the budget in March, possibly – although not certainly – through grants from the Welsh Government. He cautioned against depending on those grants.

The cost of adult social care and the budget for it was the subject of an impassioned intervention from Cllr Tessa Hodgson. Cllr Kilmister responded that ‘we are at a crisis point in adult social care’. Proposals for funding had to come from central government and come quickly. The current funding model for social care, he said, was not working; central government knew it didn’t work; had known it didn’t work for some time; had done nothing about it.

Making a political point at the end of the discussion, Cllr Paul Miller noted last year, when Pembrokeshire had a poor budget settlement, Conservatives had rushed to condemn the Welsh Government. He cynically observed this year, when Pembrokeshire had one of the best budget settlements, there hadn’t been a positive response to the announcement.

Council Leader David Simpson wound up the debate with some strong words about those of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committees which refused to give the Cabinet a steer on its budget for the coming year. He reflected upon the lack of consultation before budgets under the previous administration where councillors were given information the day before cuts were due to place.

David Simpson said he was frustrated that Council committees and their members, presented with information, sat on their hands when offered the chance to input into the process of budget-setting positively. He made it clear that a steer given at the consultation stage was not a commitment to support the budget in the chamber but a response to the information given to the committee during its questioning of Cabinet members and officers about the coming year’s budget.

The Council Leader took time to single out Cllr Brian Hall for congratulations on seizing the chance as Chair of the Corporate Overview of Scrutiny Committee to give Cabinet a steer by asking members of his Committee to vote on a recommendation to give to Cabinet based on the information they had before them on the day they met. That was the sort of response the Cabinet wanted to help it set priorities for the budget.

Cllr Simpson said democracy was in a chamber of sixty people and not just to be doled out by Cabinet. The budget, he said, ‘is not a Cabinet decision’ and found councillors’ reluctance to participate when invited to do so ‘strange’.

‘That’s life!’ Cllr Simpson observed bitterly to close the discussion.

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Monkton man with ‘no regard for the law’ jailed for two attempted robberies

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A MAN who threatened to stab a vulnerable victim just a day after trying to commit a robbery against a stranger has been jailed.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers arrested 29-year-old Jamie Rawlinson 20 minutes after receiving a report that he’d threatened to stab a stranger on June 26.

The victim reported that Rawlinson, of Colley Court, in Monkton, had approached him outside his home and held a sharp object to his chest.

The victim managed to get inside his house safely, and called the police.

Rawlinson was arrested 20 minutes later and taken to police custody, where he was interviewed the following day, and released on bail with conditions while officers carried out enquiries.

But just hours later, he was under arrest for a second time.

Detective Sergeant Tanya Rendell said: “The suspect was released on bail with stringent conditions to comply to while we carried out an investigation into the offence. There were a number of enquiries we needed to progress, which would take longer than we would have been able to keep him in custody. Despite the conditions imposed the suspect clearly had no regard for the law or the conditions imposed, and with less than three hours after being released, went on to commit another attempted robbery, this time against a vulnerable man who was known to him.

“The pair had met at a friend’s house and had gone for a walk, when they ended up in an alleyway.

“The victim was physically assaulted – punched and kicked – and was threatened that he would be stabbed if he didn’t give Rawlinson £40 and tobacco.”

PCSOs on patrol saw the victim and took him to a place of safety. Rawlinson, who was still in the area was arrested following this.

He was charged with two counts of attempt robbery and appeared at Swansea Crown Court, where he was sentenced to six years in prison.

DS Rendell said: “This was a swift an comprehensive investigation, involving officers from a number of teams. Evidence was captured by Neighbourhood Policing Teams at the scene, which was followed up with house-to-house and CCTV enquiries, as well as work from the dog unit, CID and firearms officers.

“This excellent teamwork secured the evidence needed to get a charge, conviction and a prison sentence for a man who is clearly a danger to the community.”

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Surge in reports of personal watercraft incidents on the South Pembrokeshire Coast

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THE NATIONAL PARK is appealing for riders of personal watercraft to consider the impact of their activities on other visitors and wildlife following a recent rise in reported incidents.

Launching the small jet-powered boats has already been banned in a number of locations around the Pembrokeshire Coast due to the actions of irresponsible riders and the noise nuisance generated by the crafts.

Recent reports include a personal watercraft weaving at high speed through the moorings close to the shore in Dale and a near miss with a kayaker in Freshwater East.

Park Authority Chief Executive, Tegryn Jones said: “Noisy, intrusive activities such as personal watercraft riding are not generally welcome on the Pembrokeshire Coast due to their impact on the special qualities of the National Park.

“Peace and tranquillity are some of key things that our residents and visitors value and perhaps more importantly our rare and protected wildlife depends on it. One inconsiderate jet-powered craft user has the potential to ruin the day of hundreds of other people.

“High visitor numbers mean many people are taking to the water in various vessels and kayaks and stand up paddleboards are particularly vulnerable to being overturned by the heavy wakes generated by personal watercraft.

“We are urging people to stick to the dedicated aquabatics zones on the Milford Haven Waterway and follow the ‘dead slow’ and minimum wake guidelines that are in place around beaches, harbours and other people.”

Anyone heading out into the water around the Pembrokeshire Coast is reminded to read and follow the Pembrokeshire Marine Code to minimise any disturbance to wildlife and to enable you to have the best experience possible.

Further information and maps highlighting the dedicated personal watercraft and aquabatics zones on the Milford Haven Waterway is available from the Port of Milford Haven website: https://www.mhpa.co.uk/powered-craft/.

To find out how you can minimise disturbance to wildlife while enjoying the waters around the Pembrokeshire Coast visit the Pembrokeshire Marine Code website: https://www.pembrokeshiremarinecode.org.uk/.

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Johnston: Police appeal after boy on scooter injured in collision

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POLICE are appealing for witnesses after a collision in Johnston, near Haverfordwest, on Wednesday (Aug 5).

A boy on a scooter sustained minor injuries during the collision, which took place at around 4.20pm.

A red 4×4 is also believed to have been involved.

Anyone who was in the area of the St Peters Road pelican crossing, or nearby Langford road, and either witnessed the collision or who has CCTV that covers this area is asked to get in touch with Dyfed-Powys Police

As spokesman said: “You can telephone 101 or email contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired you can text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Please quote Dyfed-Powys Police Ref DP-20200805-249.”

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